AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s employment picture improved in March, with the state adding more payroll jobs in the past year than any one-year period since the early 2000s.

The unemployment rate dipped below 6 percent in March, to 5.9 percent, for the first time since September 2008, according to preliminary survey estimates from the state’s Department of Labor and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average unemployment rate for New England was estimated at 6.3 percent. Vermont had the lowest rate, at 3.4 percent; Rhode Island had the highest, at 8.7 percent.

Estimates for Maine indicate 6,700 fewer people are seeking jobs and unable to find work than at the same time last year. An estimated 41,800 job seekers are still without work.

Glenn Mills, chief economist for the Maine DOL’s Center for Workforce Research and Information, said that more than the unemployment estimates, the addition of 8,000 payroll jobs since last March gives indication of steady improvement of Maine’s job picture.

“That’s the largest we’ve seen in a number of years,” Mills said in a phone interview Friday.

Through the early 2000s, the state had periods of consistent year-over-year payroll job growth, but not to the tune of 8,000 jobs. February 2001 was the last time the state had a larger year-over-year increase in nonfarm payroll jobs, up 10,700 from February 2000. Compared over the year, payroll jobs were up 6,900 in February of this year.

Through the late 1990s and early 2000s, DOL figures show employment surged in the state, peaking with 22,400 jobs added from May 1999 to May 2000.

The latest job count increase comes in spite of declines in government jobs since last year, which fell by 1,100 jobs. Private sector payroll jobs rose 9,100 since the same time last year.


Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.